Life Science
Incubator Leiden

Winners Philips Innovation Awards 2023 are set to make the world a better place

Listening and learning from plants

After eight pitches in the Innovator and Rough Diamond categories, the jury retreated to reach a conclusion. They judged the pitches based on the innovative nature, the feasibility of execution and the team behind the idea. “It took some tough debates and passionate exchanges of the jury, but we came to a conclusion,” said CEO of Philips and chair of the jury, Roy Jakobs. Plense Technologies, founded as a spin-off of Delft University of Technology, won the Rough Diamond Award and 10,000 euros. Through ultrasound, the young entrepreneurs want to “listen and learn” from the needs of plants to make plant cultivation more efficient and effective.

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Disrupting the heparin market

One in three patients in the hospital need to be treated with heparin to prevent blood clotting. One billion pigs are needed annually to meet this global need. To reduce dependence on animals, ExCulture has developed a fermentation method that is scalable over the long term. Their business case earned them the Innovator Award and 50,000 euros to further develop their idea. “This amount will help us to further characterize and validate our product and get one step closer to market introduction,” said winners Aisling Foley and Ilaria Poledri.


Wide range of game-changing ideas

From more sustainable space travel, to using fungi to replace synthetic textile dyes, to extracting sustainable energy from the horizontal movement of waves, the diversity of ideas from the entrepreneurs participating shows how students in the Netherlands want to contribute to making society more sustainable. “I am pleased to see that the theme of sustainability is so outspoken in this edition of the awards,” said Roy Jakobs. “Sustainable and disruptive thinking is what we need to make the world a better place.”

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Largest student entrepreneurship awards in The Netherlands

The Philips Innovation Awards is the largest student entrepreneurship awards in the Netherlands, organized by and for students. Over a period of four months, the students develop their idea from a one-pager to a business plan. Students participating receive expert coaching, access to a large network of investors and personal training guidance.


This news item is a copy of the article previously published by the Philips Innovation Award on May 17, 2023.

Applications now open for the Venture Academy

Within a period of 4 months, startups participating in the Venture Academy work on validating their business case, building a healthy team and raising funding. During the program, they are supported by experienced trainers, mentors and coaches. The program is an initiative of PLNT Leiden and the Life Science Incubator unlock_, both incubators for startups. Startups can register for the program until August 4 at the latest.

Everything a startup needs to get off to a flying start is covered in the Venture Academy. In addition, the companies receive coaching and mentoring by sector specialists who support them throughout the program. After completing the fully subsidized program, the young companies are ready to raise their first round of funding.

Specialised Track

Companies that focus on the field of Life Sciences and Health participate in the ‘Special Track’. Here, unlock_, a partner of PLNT, mentors the startups. unlock_ also serves as an incubator for startups, but is specialized in the Life Sciences and Health sector. This sector requires more in-depth knowledge about technical and legal matters such as patent applications.


Startup companies can register for an intake interview directly through this link. After this introductory interview, there is an opportunity to apply for a spot in the Venture Academy. The deadline for registration is Friday, August 4, 2023. The kick-off of the program will take place on Friday, September 8. For more information, the full brochure is available below.

Applications now open for the Venture Academy

Why a Strong Business Proposition is Key to Success for Startups

Life science startups are at the forefront of innovation in the healthcare industry. The sector is booming, with an increasing number of startups launching every year. (1) However, despite the abundance of talent and resources available, many startups fail to make it past the early stages. One of the most important factors, next to the innovativeness and cost effectiveness of the intended product contributing to this, is the lack of a strong business proposition.

In this blog, we’ll explore why having a strong business proposition is crucial for startups, and what steps can be taken to develop one.

What is a business proposition?

A business proposition, also known as a value proposition, is a statement that describes the unique benefits that a product or service offers to its customers. It explains what sets a particular product or service apart from its competitors and why customers should choose it over other options. A business proposition typically includes the following elements:

  • A clear description of the product or service being offered
  • A statement of the target market or customer segment
  • A description of the unique benefits or value that the product or service provides
  • A statement of the competitive advantage or USP (unique selling proposition) of the product or service

Why is a strong business proposition important for startups?

A strong business proposition is essential for any startup. Here’s why:

1. Attracting investment

One of the biggest challenges facing startups, including life science startups is securing funding to finance their research and development. Investors want to see a clear and compelling business proposition before committing their funds. A strong business proposition can help startups stand out from the crowd and convince investors that their product or service has the potential to succeed in the market.

To help (life science) startups in Leiden find the right investment, initiatives such as Show Me The Money offers the chance for startups to speed date with different investors and investment funds such as Innovation Quarter, Thuja Capital, Inkef and LEH.

2. Differentiating from competitors

The startup ecosystem is highly competitive, and startups need to differentiate themselves from their competitors to succeed. A strong business proposition can help startups carve out a unique niche in the market and position themselves as a leader in their field. 

3. Communicating value to customers

Startups need to be able to communicate the value of their products or services to potential customers. More specifically, in the Life Sciences & Health market it can be very hard to even define who your clients are. A clear and concise business proposition can help startups explain how their product or service can benefit customers, and why it is a better option than alternatives on the market.

How to develop a strong business proposition for your startup

Developing a strong business proposition takes time and effort, but it is a critical step in the success of your startup. Here are some tips to help you develop a compelling business proposition:

1. Know your market

To develop a strong business proposition, you need to understand your target market. Who are your customers? What are their needs and pain points? What solutions are currently available, and how does your product or service differ? To help startups answer these questions, we at unlock_ offer a range of tailored entrepreneurial programs. One such program, the Market Access & Reimbursement program helps you to define your market access and reimbursement strategy. 

2. Identify your USP

What makes your product or service unique? What sets it apart from competitors? This could be a unique feature, a lower cost, or a faster delivery time. Whatever it is, make sure it is clear and compelling. 

3. Keep it simple

Your business proposition should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Avoid using technical jargon or complicated language that could confuse potential customers or investors. 

4. Test it

Once you have developed your business proposition, test it with potential customers or investors. Get feedback on how they perceive your product or service and use this feedback to refine your proposition.

5. Iterate

Your business proposition is not set in stone. As your startup evolves, so too should your proposition. Continuously refine and iterate your proposition as you learn more about your market and your customers.

To summarize

Developing a strong business proposition is critical for the success of any startup. A compelling business proposition can help attract investment, differentiate from competitors, and communicate the value of the product or service to potential customers. 

In addition to having a strong business proposition, startups should also take advantage of the resources available to them. Take Leiden, the Netherlands for example. As the main life science & health ecosystem in the Netherlands, the Leiden Bio Science Park has a strong ecosystem for startups. Resources such as our tailored entrepreneurship programs and support at unlock_, BioPartner Leiden providing startup housing, and networking events designed to help startups succeed are all available for life science entrepreneurs. By leveraging these resources and developing a compelling business proposition, startups can navigate the challenges of the industry and emerge as leaders in their field. 

Exploration of investment fund for MedTech startups in Leiden region launched

Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship PLNT Leiden, Leiden Bio Science Park, the LEH and Life Science incubator unlock_ are exploring the need for an incubation program for medtech startups in the Leiden region. To this end, they have signed a letter of intent with accelerator

In the coming months, the parties will investigate the feasibility of an incubation/acceleration program for startups in the field of medtech, medical devices and e-health. At the same time, they are also looking at how the Seed Fund can invest in the Leiden startups.

Program and fund prepare startups for further growth and investment

The incubators of knowledge institutions annually produce hundreds of new startups that are of great value and impact on our economy and society. However, some of these startups do not survive, despite a promising startup phase. They struggle to raise investments in the early stages of technological invention. The Leiden parties hope that through this (international) collaboration with imec.istart these startups can be helped to get through this early phase and grow further.

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Strategic collaboration

PLNT, Leiden Bio Science Park Foundation, the LEH and unlock_ are seeking strategic cooperation with imec and imec.istart. The latter Belgian Research & Development hub has existed for more than 35 years and is known worldwide for innovations in nano and digital technology. Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement with Radboud University, Radboud UMC and University of Twente for imec.start: a new acceleration program in which tech startups can receive pre-seed funding and coaching. In the coming months, the Leiden parties will work with imec to further develop the plans to launch during 2023.


More information:

Vacancy: Junior Program Coordinator

Do you want to help put the unlock_ Incubation Program even more on the map? And does it appeal to you to do so at a fast-growing startup hub? Then you are exactly who we are looking for! We offer you the space to contribute to the realization of our ambitions, and give you the opportunity to develop yourself further.

unlock_ and the unlock_ Incubation Program

unlock_ is the first incubator in the Netherlands focusing specifically on supporting life science- and biotechnology startups during the first steps of their companies’ development. At unlock_, we believe in creating a tight-knit community of program cohorts, that share every step of becoming successful biotech entrepreneurs. Hence, unlock_ will join the existing Leiden entrepreneurship hub, PLNT Leiden center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The unlock_ Incubation Program is the flagship program of unlock_. During this 12-month program, a pre-selected group up to 10 life science & health and biotechnology startups are supported in raising funds, building their team, building their startups, and signing their first (paid) pilots. The program consists of a planned component (onboarding – 3 months) and a tailor-made part (9 months). Previously, participants in this program have raised €2,5 Million in funds, expanded their teams with more than 10 FTE and signed their first deals.

About the function

As Junior Program Coordinator, you will be part of an enthusiastic and entrepreneurial PLNT Leiden team that supports Life Science & Health and Biotech entrepreneurs in the region of Leiden, along their startup lifecycle. In this position, you will primarily support founders with a proven technology, in their journey to becoming “economically active”. You will do this by coordinating the unlock_ Incubation Program and various events catered to the needs of the startups in the unlock_ community, as they move through the complicated life science sector, towards a clear product vision, target audience, and MVP.

Within this role there are ample growth opportunities to more senior Program Manager positions and the development of other support programs and projects with associated responsibilities.

General responsibilities for the unlock_ Incubation Program

Core activities:

  • Be the friendly face and primary point of contact for our founders and partners of the program.
  • You will have the lead responsibility for the proper planning and execution of the program (over the 12-month period), meaning you will own all processes and components within the unlock_ Incubation Program. In doing so, you will develop and maintain formal process/project documentation for long-term sustainable success.
  • Capture needs of the participants in the unlock_ Incubation Program and (together with the Senior Program Manager) translate these into dedicated training events. I.e. deep-dives, fireside chats, Show Me The Money and other life science-related events.
  • Deliver input to the marketing manager in creating and executing the market strategy and for unlock_ communications.
  • Coordinate with the Senior Program Manager about further developments in the program.
  • Coordinate with Project Assistants for support on the administrative tasks surrounding the program.

Other activities:

  • Collect data and information, use analytics and reporting skills to provide transparency to senior leadership and executives about program metrics and impacts
  • Support and coordinate with the Program Managers of the activation & pre-incubation stage programs to maintain the alignment of the programs.
  • Identify overarching needs and opportunities together with the Program Managers of the activation & pre-incubation stage programs.
  • Socialize programs internally and externally to stakeholders and customers, including building slideshows and other written/spoken content.

Who are we looking for?

We are seeking a dedicated, disciplined, professional who excels in both a team environment and as a self-motivated individual contributor.

Basic qualifications


  • have a good command of the English language, both in speech and in writing;
  • have at least 3 years of Program, Project or Process Management experience, preferably in the Life Science and Health sector;
  • have excellent organizational and communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to adapt to change within an evolving environment;
  • have the ability to build internal processes to increase the scalability of the program;
  • have interpersonal skills to interact with entrepreneurs in the program and the unlock_ community;
  • can capture program participants’ needs and translate these into actionable interventions with our partners.

Preferred qualifications

You have:

  • a Master’s degree in Life Sciences and Health;
  • experience in working with MIRO, Notion or other relevant project support platforms;
  • an understanding of the coordination and management of early-stage incubator programs, preferably with knowledge of the Dutch, European and Global biotech entrepreneurial environment;
  • a good command of the Dutch language, both in speech and writing.

Offer of employment

PLNT offers you a challenging position within a fast-growing company. At PLNT, you will have the opportunity to work from the most innovative work places in Leiden and network with the most interesting entrepreneurs in the country. This employment as a Junior Program Coordinator will be for the duration of 1 year with the prospect of extension upon good performance. We offer you a gross salary between €2.900,- and €4.500,- based on full-time (40 hours), depending on your experience. We also offer you a good retirement plan and the possibility of an additional annual bonus of 8% of your annual salary. Furthermore, we offer 30 vacation days per year.

Join our team

Are you motivated to join our mission to become the best life science- and biotechnology incubator of Europe? Please send us your motivation letter and CV before January 22, 2023 via If you would like more information about the role, please contact Ruben Habraken at +31 (0)6 53908761 or Stéfan Ellenbroek at +31 6 10705608.

ExCulture wins 2022 Gulliver competition

On December 8th the Gulliver final 2022 took place. There was fierce competition between ExCulture, Heliostrome and Baseline.

In the end the jury decided to reward unlock_ and PLNT alumni, ExCulture with the grand prize of €10.000. Mainly the stage that the different startups are in contributed to the hard decision. ExCulture works on a solution for the following: the production of some medicines is dependent on Heparin. Heparin is a substance that originates from pig intestines. Heparin is on a shortage list, amongst other things because of swine fever. Aisling Foley and Ilaria Poledri develop a new drug development method for lifesaving pharmaceuticals independent from animals.

The Special BioPartner €2500 prize for best life science idea went to Baseline. The jury argued that this €2500 will help Baseline a lot in the verification of her methods. The €2500 will be enough to further proof the concept and then attract more funding. The jury had good faith in the solution that baseline develops for hormones testing. Besides the prize money, baseline also won 6 month of free working space at PLNT.

About Gulliver

Gulliver is a foundation that supports young entrepreneurship in the Leiden region. To this end, it organizes an annual entrepreneurship competition and various knowledge sessions with diverse themes. Gulliver is made possible by a network of sponsors: Municipality of Leiden, Rabobank Leiden-Katwijk, Business Platform Schipholweg-Schuttersvel, Entrepreneurs Association Bio Science Park, Bio Partner and PLNT Leiden.


This news item is a copy of the article previously published by Gulliver on Dec. 13, 2022.

unlock_ launches Market Access & Reimbursement program

Are you planning to raise your next investment round and/or are you creating your market access strategy, but you need to find out how reimbursement works in your target market? Apply now for the unlock_ Market Access & Reimbursement program from January-March or September-December 2023.

With the unlock_ Market Access & Reimbursement (MA&R) program we will support you in increasing your investor readiness level by:

  • Helping you understand the main elements of a MA&R strategy;
  • Help you understand and answer the critical questions that form the basis of your MA&R strategy, irrespective of the market that you are aiming for;
  • Understand how investors will evaluate your technology in terms of opportunities and obstacles to market adoption and market sizing.

Across three training days, you will work on building the skills and answering the most critical questions for your MA&R strategy. During the individual research track, you can choose a market of your choice. Together with experts from Hull Associates, you will map out how your technology fits in the local market and reimbursement system, and what your strategy needs to be in order to enter that market.

The costs of this program can be fully covered by the ZorgTech program voucher. Are you interested in the program or want to know more? View the program brochure and additional information here.

Leiden iGEM Team returns home with gold medal

The Leiden iGEM student team ‘Binanox’ won a gold medal at an international competition for organic entrepreneurs in Paris. Not only that, Binanox also won three “special awards” for best website, entrepreneurship and best safety policy, particularly around lab work and the use of genetically modified organisms.

iGEM is an international competition in the field of synthetic biology. Over six thousand students, in three hundred teams from 45 countries try to invent new products and services for industry, environment and health, for example, using synthetic biology. The organizer is Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA. Leiden teams often score high marks. In 2019, the student team Rapidemic won with a test kit to quickly detect sexual infectious diseases. Rapidemic is now a startup with a branch in innovation center PLNT on Leiden’s Langegracht.

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Top ten

Binanox students are developing nanoparticles that can remove tumors in head and neck cancers. All in all, the team finished in the top ten out of more than three hundred teams. The Leiden students invented a new way for bacteria to produce nanoparticles of silver and gold. Patients with head and neck cancer can have those particles injected near a tumor, after which infrared radiation heats the nanoparticles, thus breaking down the tumors.

Mirthe Zandbelt, undergraduate Life Science and Technology student and Binanox team manager, is especially proud of the top-ten place. “It shows that as a team we have achieved something special. At the same time, the three special awards also show that our three managers website, entrepreneurship and safety have also done top work individually.” Thus, a bright future seems up for grabs, but it is not so simple. “There is a lot of potential in Binanox,” says Windi Putri Wulandari, communications manager and master’s student in biology, “But before we can think about that, we need to graduate!”

This news item is a copy of the Leidsch Dagblad article published earlier on December 2, 2022.
Photography: Hielco Kuipers

Improving the Startup Visa Scheme

The Netherlands makes it possible for international entrepreneurs to acquire a residence permit on the basis of their startups.

There are, of course, several critera that you have to meet in order to be eligible for this, such as offering innovative services or products, and you must work together with an experienced mentor (also referred to as a ‘facilitator’) already established in the Netherlands. You can find the full list of criteria on the Netherlands Enterprise Agency’s website.

Currently, this residence permit is only granted for one year to allow the business to build a base here in the Netherlands. At the end of this one year, the permit needs to be assessed and you are then able to convert the startup permit into a self-employed person permit. To learn more about the self-employed person permit, you can visit the Dutch Immigration Authority’s (IND) website, which allows you to input your nationality for more information on what is required in your individual situation.

However, it was recently announced that the residence permit for foreign startups can now be extended to two years. This allows for more time for these startups to grow their business in the Netherlands, thereby making it easier for individuals to then be able to convert their startup residence permits into the self-employed person permit.

In the first half of 2023, Eric van der Burg, the State Secretary for Justice and Security of the Netherlands, will provide more information detailing the plan for changes to this startup visa and other related actions that will be taken to improve regulations for foreign startups.

This news item is a copy of the article previously published by the Leiden International Centre on Dec. 2, 2022.

dHealthIQ closes investment to validate their AI platform for elderly care and rehabilitation

LEH (Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V) and Interhealth Holding B.V. invest a total of €500k in the Leiden-based startup dHealthIQ B.V. dHealthIQ supplies analytical software to elderly care institutions (in dutch: VVT).

dHealthIQ is on a mission to improve care for the elderly and physical rehabilitation by connecting nurses, health care professionals and family members to their state-of-the-art artificial intelligence platform.

dHealthIQ’s software uses data from various wearables, medical devices and sensors that help elderly persons to live at home safer and longer. The AI-based analytics includes frailty detection and automatic recognition of wellbeing and behaviour. These insights help care professionals provide a personalised care plan for patients, improves efficiency and keeps family members connected and informed.

The investment will be used for the further development of the frailty algorithm, to carry out pilots in various elderly care institutions, and to expand the team.

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Mindaugas Leonavicius, dHealthIQ:We already have an extremely strong academic foundation due to our close relationship with Leiden University, Kaunas Technology University, Lithuanian LiveScience university. However, this investment is essential for the commercialization of our technology.”

Maarten Zwitserloot, dHealthIQ:The elderly care faces a major challenge, but fortunately our government is working hard on structural solutions. Thanks to this investment, we can also support elders to remain living at home.”

Rob Mayfield (Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V):We are excited to be supporting dHealthIQ and their ambitions to improve elderly care as well as rehabilitation in the Netherlands.”

Stéfan Ellenbroek (unlock_):I’m always very proud when one of the unlock_flock succeeds in attracting money. For dHealthIQ it’s a special case again as in its particular brand of e-health, this investment should get them a long way to integrate themselves in health care and the impact they seek. So Go Mindaugas and team and make us even more proud!”

For more information about dHealthIQ go to:

About Libertatis Ergo Holding (LEH)

Libertatis Ergo Holding (LEH) invests in science based startup companies associated with the activities of Leiden University and supports entrepreneurs who develop high impact technology.

About unlock_

unlock_, the Life Science Incubator in Leiden, covers all phases of starting a business. unlock_ offers tailored entrepreneurship programmes dedicated to Life Science and Health startups and scaleups. Located on the Leiden Bio Science Park, unlock_ provides the structure, the program, the network and the instruments needed to turn an idea into a solution.